Columns » Bob Lancaster

Soitainly

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A TV anchorman died last week and one of the next-day headlines was, “Jennings’ Death Ushers in Uncertain Era.” Silly me, I thought we’d already been living in an uncertain era. There had been a time of certainty, certainly. I remember being certain about a lot of things once. That we’d got McCarthyism out of our system for good. That we had left the Scopes foolishness far behind us. That we would never again try to be the world’s policeman. That energy independence was just around the corner. That there’d surely be a cancer cure before before the Marlboros chummed my intake manifold. That we’d all learn to mind our own business concerning sex and reproduction. That Baptists would gravitate, if only slowly, toward saner views. I was certain of TV quiz-show probity, of the promise that one day my whole crew would weekend at the Holiday Inn on the moon. That was the age of certainty. It felt good, made an early optimist of me. Didn’t quite make a Republican out of me though I heard the siren and had to be lashed to the spar. But that old lovely dead-solid certainty stole away. Caught the last train for the coast. Was revealed to have been the ancient hallucinatory fool’s paradise brought out one more time, garbed onto our perception for the entertainment of audienced immortals. Having sport with us. I’m not sure what or who ushered in this long-running succeeding era of uncertainty — Thurber as misanthrope and Vivian Leigh skanking the fleet might’ve done it; for me, personally, disillusionment’s onset I’m pretty sure was coincident with learning that the Weismiller Tarzan yell was a fake, improbably concocted by a trio of yodeling Alpside veterinarians — but in any case one day the old steady-as-she-goes uniformitarian certainty evacked like the wild goose in autumn, and you could no longer be certain of a damn thing. I had already turned 40 then, I remember that. Uncertainty moved from ascendant to triumphant when just about everybody, especially entertainers, athletes and corporate criminals, started claiming to be “the real victim” in whatever tight spot they found themselves. That may have started with Joan Crawford’s girl, and it didn’t let up right on through Mrs. Kenneth Lay, that heifer. O.J. himself might’ve been the best known and least believable of the Real Victims, but since you couldn’t believe them all you couldn’t believe any of the dipshitz. It took a leap of faith for a long time there just to get up in the morning. So Peter Jennings’ death didn’t usher in any Uncertain Era. We’ve breathed that fetid air since way back before Paula Jones first eyed romance in a trailer hitch, and I’ve just been sitting here riffling the contemporary uncertainties. They are myriad. A jumble of them follows, hooting the notion that they might be edited into presentability. To wit: I’ve been uncertain ever since we started this war in Iraq what it had to do with 9/11. I’ve been uncertain whether there’s a scientific principle that explains why just about all the really sanctimonious a-holes gravitate to the same wing of the same political party. I’ve been uncertain whether God actually listens to those pressbox prayers before ball games. He IS God, and if you were, would you? I’ve been uncertain for years now what people mean when they urge me to Support the Troops. I’m not certain the troops have much to do with it. I’ve been uncertain which the Christian Right has shamed more, Christianity or America. I’ve been uncertain what it is about sanctimonious conservative icons that causes so many of their offspring to turn out to be Friends of Dorothy. I’ve been uncertain why anyone with nice teeth would do meth. I’ve been uncertain why any of us should care if athletes want to court glory by blowing themselves up into steroid freaks. I’ve been uncertain whether we ought to just shoot what’s left of the news media. I’ve been uncertain whether it was reptilian evolution that brought forth Tom Delay. I’ve been uncertain what the attraction is in cockfighting, slot machines, big-screen TVs, and Bradford pear trees. I’ve been uncertain how much I’d like to see them do one of them Guantanamo nad specials on Sean Hannity. I’ve been uncertain about global warming but this summer has just about convinced me. I’ve been uncertain whether I can pay $2.60 for gasoline without punching somebody. I’ve been uncertain whether intelligent design is either intelligent or design. Finally, there’s a hateful old guy down the street here who has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “I Stand with President George W. Bush,” and I’ve been uncertain what it is these two colossi are standing for or on. I asked the old guy (in the drive-thru line at Hardee’s) and before rolling up his window and turning away he told me what the veep told Sen. Leahy. These hunches don’t like questions. There had been a time of certainty, certainly. I remember being certain about a lot of things once. That we’d got McCarthyism out of our system for good. That we had left the Scopes foolishness far behind us. That we would never again try to be the world’s policeman. That energy independence was just around the corner. That there’d surely be a cancer cure before before the Marlboros chummed my intake manifold. That we’d all learn to mind our own business concerning sex and reproduction. That Baptists would gravitate, if only slowly, toward saner views. I was certain of TV quiz-show probity, of the promise that one day my whole crew would weekend at the Holiday Inn on the moon. That was the age of certainty. It felt good, made an early optimist of me. Didn’t quite make a Republican out of me though I heard the siren and had to be lashed to the spar. But that old lovely dead-solid certainty stole away. Caught the last train for the coast. Was revealed to have been the ancient hallucinatory fool’s paradise brought out one more time, garbed onto our perception for the entertainment of audienced immortals. Having sport with us. I’m not sure what or who ushered in this long-running succeeding era of uncertainty — Thurber as misanthrope and Vivian Leigh skanking the fleet might’ve done it; for me, personally, disillusionment’s onset I’m pretty sure was coincident with learning that the Weismiller Tarzan yell was a fake, improbably concocted by a trio of yodeling Alpside veterinarians — but in any case one day the old steady-as-she-goes uniformitarian certainty evacked like the wild goose in autumn, and you could no longer be certain of a damn thing. I had already turned 40 then, I remember that. Uncertainty moved from ascendant to triumphant when just about everybody, especially entertainers, athletes and corporate criminals, started claiming to be “the real victim” in whatever tight spot they found themselves. That may have started with Joan Crawford’s girl, and it didn’t let up right on through Mrs. Kenneth Lay, that heifer. O.J. himself might’ve been the best known and least believable of the Real Victims, but since you couldn’t believe them all you couldn’t believe any of the dipshitz. It took a leap of faith for a long time there just to get up in the morning. So Peter Jennings’ death didn’t usher in any Uncertain Era. We’ve breathed that fetid air since way back before Paula Jones first eyed romance in a trailer hitch, and I’ve just been sitting here riffling the contemporary uncertainties. They are myriad. A jumble of them follows, hooting the notion that they might be edited into presentability. To wit: I’ve been uncertain ever since we started this war in Iraq what it had to do with 9/11. I’ve been uncertain whether there’s a scientific principle that explains why just about all the really sanctimonious a-holes gravitate to the same wing of the same political party. I’ve been uncertain whether God actually listens to those pressbox prayers before ball games. He IS God, and if you were, would you? I’ve been uncertain for years now what people mean when they urge me to Support the Troops. I’m not certain the troops have much to do with it. I’ve been uncertain which the Christian Right has shamed more, Christianity or America. I’ve been uncertain what it is about sanctimonious conservative icons that causes so many of their offspring to turn out to be Friends of Dorothy. I’ve been uncertain why anyone with nice teeth would do meth. I’ve been uncertain why any of us should care if athletes want to court glory by blowing themselves up into steroid freaks. I’ve been uncertain whether we ought to just shoot what’s left of the news media. I’ve been uncertain whether it was reptilian evolution that brought forth Tom Delay. I’ve been uncertain what the attraction is in cockfighting, slot machines, big-screen TVs, and Bradford pear trees. I’ve been uncertain whether I can pay $2.60 for gasoline without punching somebody. I’ve been uncertain whether intelligent design is either intelligent or design. Finally, there’s a hateful old guy down the street here who has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “I Stand with President George W. Bush,” and I’ve been uncertain what it is these two colossi are standing for or on. I asked the old guy (in the drive-thru line at Hardee’s) and before rolling up his window and turning away he told me what the veep told Sen. Leahy. These hunches don’t like questions.

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